After my exciting Smugglers’ Trail adventure I came back to Dundonald in October 2016 to take a tour of the castle and walk through the woodlands again.
This amazing 14th century castle we see today is looked after by Historic Scotland and the charity Friends of Dundonald Castle who are the keyholders. I’m a member of Historic Scotland, so I didn’t need to pay for my tour.
The castle tour
It’s a steep, but short path to reach the castle on the hill. When you first approach the castle there’s well in the ground on the left. It’s not known if this was a well or cistern. The hill is a solid quartz-dolorite plug so digging down for water would have been quite challenging.
The reason I mention the well is that when I lunched at The Auchans Restaurant and Bar in the village one day, I was surprised that it had a well in the bar!
I was quite fascinated by this and asked the staff about it. Rising water needs to be pumped out regularly or the basement floods. Seemingly there are six wells in the village. I feel a ‘well hunt’ coming …
Back to the castle though!
Over the centuries, three medieval castles have been built at this amazing site in Dundonald.
- The first one was built from timber around 1160.
- The second from stone in the late 13th century. It was destroyed though, possibly by Robert the Bruce to deny it to the English in the wars of independence.
- The third castle we see today was built around the 14th century by King Robert II (Robert Stewart), grandson of Robert the Bruce no less!
The Visitor Centre has fabulous models on display showing a visual of what the different castles might have looked like back in the days.
The tour guide Colin is very knowledgeable about the castle and its history. He showed me around the outside and inside of this amazing castle.
When I first walked through the door I was in awe of the high stone vaulted hall. It was bigger than I thought it would be inside. This is a popular venue for weddings, I can understand why. I could imagine the hall lit with flickering candles and listening to an acoustic sound of music and voices.
The photos I took in the hall didn’t work out very well and I was busy talking and listening to the history. I only remembered snippets, but that’s when a wee history guide from the Visitor Centre is perfect.
I did find this photo of the second level though from a visit many years ago. I don’t think much will have changed.
I walked through the door on second level to the prison and pit. Steps led downwards to the pit, a concealed room with no windows. There’s a light on now, but back in the days it was pitch black. If you’re brave to explore further you’ll see the castle’s cave spiders!
Next it was up the spiral stairs to the third level, the Great Upper Hall. I loved going to the top. It is thought that this part of the castle was used by the king and his family.
I looked out of the west window and I could see the Isle of Arran. This castle has spectacular 360 views! It would have looked so different all those centuries ago.
On a clear day, to the east, you can see Loudoun Hill near Darvel.
If you look closely at the walls, you can see stonemason marks on the occasional stone. This was to identify the work of the stonemason, showing their skills. A portfolio of sorts?
The west wall of the castle has five shields carved from sandstone. There is also a carving of two lions with their tails curled inwards. You can see recreations of the shields at the Visitor Centre. My photo doesn’t shown them very well.
It was a great wee tour and I wanted to stay longer, but I had to get back home. Some more photos below that I took at different times over the years.
Sunsets and clouds at the castle are pretty spectacular and sometimes you can see across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran. Sadly, modern life slips into the picture with steam rising from the paper factory ahead.
These are a few photos from a recent winter walk in 2018. The snow didn’t stay long. I was hoping for a more snowy photo.
Dundonald Castle the video
My husband and I worked together to record some drone footage of Dundonald Castle in April 2017. This was the third video we’d created and it’s my favourite one so far. We visited early in the morning to find we arrived just in time for the most amazing sunrise!
Watch our video of this amazing atmospheric castle.
Dundonald Castle in 360
We’ve also been experimenting with our Samsung Gear 360 camera. I feel the photos are not the best quality but it’s all we have to work with at the moment. Have a look at 360 photos of Dundonald Castle.
My next post is about Old Auchans House ruin, a 17th century house built for the first Earl of Dundonald for his Royalist support!
Thanks for reading!